LANCASTER -- Dallastown's joys of a YAIAA tournament title a few days earlier and its girls' basketball season were dashed Tuesday night by a bigger and faster Manheim Township team from the Lancaster-Lebanon League.
After a 52-43 loss to the District 3 Class AAAA fifth-seeded Blue Streaks (21-3), several members of the 12th-seeded Wildcats (19-7) left Manheim Township teary-eyed. Senior forward Shae Grim left on crutches. Coach Mary Manlove departed knowing she will have momentum on her side entering next season but realizing this was her last game with a senior class she saw through all four of its high school years.
"I always heard other coaches say your first class is special," Manlove said, "but I can't even express how much I've learned as a coach and grown as a person from working with these athletes."
They entered Tuesday night with a six-game win streak and were poised to make it seven when sophomore Amari Johnson banked a shot off the glass in the first minute.
A team that taught its coach she doesn't have to "coach each possession like it's the last possession," as Manlove said, looked in control. Township, which had won 14 straight before a two-point loss in the L-L semifinals, committed three turnovers before it even registered a field-goal attempt 2 minutes, 35 seconds into the game.
But, soon after, Streaks forward Alex Ross answered with her own bank shot, this one a 3-pointer near the left corner that connected with glass before it met the bottom of the net. Once it did, Dallastown never led again.
Johnson scored the Wildcats' first six points, but that run included a 7:47 stretch between the first and second quarters when Dallastown did not score. Between that drought, a 5-4 deficit grew to 19-4.
"Their height definitely bothered us," Manlove said. "I think that we played fabulous in the second half and figured it out, but I don't think you can come out against a team that good and come back from that much."
Johnson, one of Dallastown's tallest players with fellow sophomore Katie McGowan at 6-foot, still had to slightly look up at Township's 6-2 junior, Alexandra Leslie. In addition to Leslie, 6-0 junior Kaitlyn VanTash and 5-10 Alex Ross made up the Streaks' frontcourt.
They stayed back on Dallastown screens, keeping themselves between the Wildcats and the basket. For the game, Dallastown shot 19-of-49 and trailed by as many as 16 points midway through the third quarter.
The end result seemed sure. Grim, who was lost to a knee injury that Manlove said will need further evaluation, walked off the court with 18.7 seconds left in the third. Without her for the fourth, Dallastown slowly chipped the deficit down to 10.
But each time that happened, a quick foul led the Streaks to the free-throw line.
"I think the fouls were hard for us, too, because every time you make a run, they're knocking down free throws," Manlove said after Township finished 27-of-36 from the line and was in the bonus for the final 6:45.
Dallastown pulled within six, but the rally in the final two minutes with the clock and fouls proving as big an obstacle as the Streaks.
Jackson 1 0-0 2, Lehman 3 0-0 7, Thomas 4 0-2 9, Grim 1 2-2 4, Amari Johnson 6 0-1 12, McGowan 3 0-0 6, Small 1 1-2 3, Butler 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 3-7 43.
MANHEIM TOWNSHIP (52)
Relin 1 7-9 9, Molly Hendrick 1 10-12 12, Kaitlyn VanTash 2 3-6 7, Alex Ross 5 1-1 12, Alexandra Leslie 2 6-6 10, Pompey 0 0-0 0, Files 1 0-0 2, Braswell 0 0-2 0. Totals 12 27-36 52.
Dallastown 4 6 11 22 -- 43
Manheim Twp. 13 11 9 19 -- 52
3-point goals -- Dallastown 2 (Lehman, Thomas); Manheim Township 1 (Ross).